Ukraine crisis: Mayor of eastern Ukraine city of Kharkiv Gennady Kernes is shot by unidentified gunmen
Mayor of the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv was shot in the back while jogging this morning
The mayor of Ukraine’s second largest city has been shot and critically wounded as the continuing unrest in Ukraine intensified and President Barack Obama announced a fresh wave of sanctions against Russia.
Gennady Kernes, the mayor of the eastern city of Kharkiv, was shot in the back by unidentified gunmen on Monday morning, his office said. He was reported to have been out jogging at the time.
Mr Kernes, who is said to be undergoing emergency surgery, used to be a supporter of ousted President Victor Yanukovych before positioning himself as largely loyal to the Kiev government.
In an interview with The Voice of Russia in February, he said: "We do not glorify the UPA combatants and will allow no one to destroy what many generations of the Soviet people and the generations of those making their home in today's independent Ukraine have created.
In a statement on its website, the local council said: "Doctors are fighting for his life. He is now in the emergency room undergoing an operation.”
Kharkiv, which is about 40km from the Russian border, has so far managed to keep pro-Russian militants at bay.
After initially being heavily targeted by separatists, the town has largely been successful in forcing protesters beyond the city’s borders.
Yesterday the city was the scene of clashes when football fans marching for a united Ukraine fought with pro-Russia supporters. The authorities in Kharkiv said 14 people were injured.
The shooting preceded the announcement by Mr Obama this morning that a fresh wave of sanctions would include high-technology exports to Russia’s defence industry.
According to Reuters, they are also expected to include wealthy individuals close to Putin. A full list is set to be published today.
"The goal here is not to go after Mr. Putin personally," Mr Obama said during a news conference in the Philippines. "The goal is to change his calculus with respect to how the current actions that he's engaging in could have an adverse impact on the Russian economy over the long haul."
The sanctions follow accusations that Russia had not lived up to its commitments promised under a fragile diplomatic accord aimed at easing alleged Russian provocation in Ukraine.
The shooting of Mr Kernes comes amid wider unrest in the region. On Monday morning, masked and armed militants seized a government building in another city in eastern Ukraine, Kostyantynivka, some 100 miles from the Russian border.
Pro-Russian separatists on Sunday seized control of the offices of regional state television in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk and said they would take it off air and broadcast a Kremlin-backed Russian channel instead.
And yesterday, pro-Russian militants in camouflage fatigues and black balaclavas paraded the captive European military observers before the media.
The display came hours after three Ukrainian security guards were shown bloodied, blindfolded and stripped of their trousers and shoes, their arms bound with packing tape.
Dozens of people are being held hostage, including journalists and pro-Ukraine activists, in makeshift jails in Slovyansk, as the pro-Russian insurgents strengthen their control in defiance of the interim government in Kiev and its Western supporters.
Speaking in deliberate and clipped phrases, Col Axel Schneider of Germany, speaking on behalf of the observers, insisted they were not Nato spies, as claimed by the insurgents, but a military observation mission operating under the auspices of the OSCE.
Additional reporting by Reuters
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